In his opening remarks at the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP) hearing Tuesday morning, Kevin Chavous, chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, stated:
By any measure, by any test, by any rational standard, this hearing should be about how we can expand this program not just in Washington, D.C., but into other parts of our nation. Instead … we’re here trying to save the very program that should be a model for our nation.
Despite the DCOSP’s track record of success—manifested by the significantly higher graduation rates of its students and the overwhelming level of support from parents and community members alike—Congress has been threatening to phase it out since 2009.
Since 2003, the DCOSP has provided a way out of failing public schools and has opened the doors of educational opportunity for thousands of students in the nation’s capital. As a mother of a DCOSP student testified on Tuesday:
The Opportunity Scholarship Program has been the difference to [my daughter] having to attend schools that are not safe and are still underperforming to her now attending a school that meets her needs and where I know she is safe.
And as Ronald Holassie, a DCOSP student, stated in his testimony:
When I received my scholarship, I was so far behind that the school asked me to repeat the sixth grade. As I am now a senior … I am ready to take on the world and new opportunities. I credit the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program for my success.
Additionally, Holassie said the program had been “life changing” and that “I wouldn’t be the person I am right here before you all if it wasn’t for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.” However, some political officials remain unmoved. In her statements, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D–DC) argued that the DCOSP is unnecessary and could weaken public schools. But a program that can achieve 91 percent graduation rates in one of the lowest-performing school districts in the nation and allows students to escape schools where nearly one in eight children is threatened by a deadly weapon each year is hardly irrelevant.
Furthermore, to say that the DCOSP harms public schools is difficult to swallow. When the program was created, the District also allocated increased funding for D.C. Public Schools. As Chariman Trey Gowdy (R–SC) stated:
The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program does not take one red cent from the DC public school system. And to argue otherwise is disingenuous at best.
Students in the nation’s capital—and around the nation—need every opportunity to get the best education possible. Chavous summed it up, stating:
We need to support any and all means that’s going to educate even one child. … I really believe that by any means necessary should be by any means necessary when it comes to the children that we’re trying to save.
To watch the entire hearing, click here.